Trump nominee for state secretary grilled on EJKs in PH
LOS ANGELES—Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson endured tough questioning about human rights—including the extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines—during his confirmation hearing in Washington DC on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila).
Sen. Marco Rubio grilled Tillerson, the outgoing ExxonMobil CEO nominated by Donald Trump to be his secretary of state, about his views on reported human rights violations in Russia, China, Saudi Arabia and the Philippines.
Rubio asked Tillerson: “Since President Rodrigo Duterte took oath last June, the Los Angeles Times reports that roughly over 6,200 people have been killed in the Philippines by police and vigilantes in alleged drug raids. In your view, is it the right way to conduct an anti-drug campaign?”
In response, Tillerson said the US and the Philippines have a longstanding friendship and that it was important to keep that in perspective when engaging with the Philippines.
“They have been an ally. We have to ensure that they stay an ally,” he said.
Rubio replied: “That’s correct Mr. Tillerson, but my question is about the 6,200 that have been killed in these alleged drug raids. Do you believe that it is an appropriate way to conduct that operation, or do you believe that it is something that’s conducive to human rights violations (and) that we should be concerned about?”
Shortly after the hearing, Amnesty International USA released a statement criticizing Tillerson for not calling out governments, including the Duterte administration, for human rights violations.
“After a day of questioning, Tillerson’s commitment to human rights in the US and abroad is in serious question,” Amnesty International USA executive director Margaret Huang said in a statement.
“While he confirmed that US foreign policy should include the prioritization of human rights, he refused to acknowledge human rights abuses by known and long-recognized violators.”
“It is extremely (disconcerting) that a nominee for Secretary of State would claim that governments in countries like Syria and the Philippines with clear patterns of documented violations are not considered human rights abusers,” Huang added.
Huang said Tillerson’s statements suggest that under his leadership the State Department would not pressure human rights violators “even in the face of overwhelming evidence.”
At the end of the hearing, Rubio indicated that Tillerson’s responses were troubling.
Rubio told Tillerson: “I asked you about whether Vladimir Putin was a war criminal, something that you declined to label him as. I asked about China, whether they were one of the worst human rights violators in the world, which again, you didn’t want to compare them to other countries. I asked about the killings in the Philippines. I asked about Saudi Arabia being a human rights violator, which you also declined to label them,” Rubio told Tillerson.
Rubio said not taking a stand against human rights abuses leads other countries to believe that “America cares about democracy and freedom as long as it’s not being violated by someone that they need for something else.”
“We need a secretary of state that will fight for these principles. That’s why I’m asking these questions,” Rubio said.
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